28 December 2007

New Visionary Saver Version, and Updates

The Visionary Saver screen saver now has an official home, on my new (and barely going) business site (Cobalt Edge LLC). There is a new version (1.3) out, which mainly adds some additional visualizations. It is built for Leopard only, and will be this way going forward. My apologies to anyone running MacOS X versions prior to 10.5.

Installing Litespeed on Slicehost

I was trying to install Litespeed on a new slice at Slicehost. This is an Ubuntu 7.10 setup. It all seemed to work until I tried to start it up. It said it couldn't find the binary for lshttpd, but it was there. Doing some searching finally yielded this thread, where I realized I just needed to install the 32-bit compatible libraries (since Litespeed is 32-bit). So, a simple sudo aptitude install ia32-libs and a re-install of Litespeed did the trick.

22 December 2007

Use every tool you can

I just spent a chunk of time figuring out a problem with the way the content of one of the sites I work on flows. We have theme templates, and so on, but all of a sudden the sidebars of the site were no longer sidebars, but shown at the bottom of the page, and there were a few other oddities.

We couldn't figure out anything that had been recently changed that would affect this, so I basically had to start sifting through the HTML to try to see what it could be. I suspected a missing ending div tag or similar, that would thus pull the sidebars into the main content area's div.

To solve this, I started with the Web Developer plugin in Firefox, but that wasn't leading anywhere. I checked some things in CSS Edit. I then used Web Developer's View Source with my associated editor (TextMate) and pulled up the code. The code was messy as hell (no thanks Drupal and the theme we are using), and using code folding, re-indenting and various things was going to take forever.

Next up was Dreamweaver. Voila! This is probably the third time I've used Dreamweaver in my life, but I opened up the source for the page in it, and turned on it's ability to "Highlight Invalid Code". Immediately it showed two div tags that did not have closing tags. Just as I suspected! Now, how to figure out what code within that was eating the ending div (i.e. that itself did not have ending div's, because I could see that the matching ending div for these particular two divs was there (I'd edited the theme to put in comments showing the matching ending divs).

Now it was back to TextMate to manually look at the enclosed HTML. This was tedious for sure, but after some time, I found what looked like some missing closing div's. I identified which blog entry it was in, went to the site and looked at the content for that blog entry, and voila, wacky use of divs! This appeared to have been remnants from some kind of formatting the TinyMCE WYSYWYG editor had been doing. Thankfully we've bailed on TinyMCE and are now using FCKeditor which appears to work much better so far.

Anyway, wrapping up, I fixed up the two blog entries that had these weird div uses, and voila, that fixed the site layout! For me at least, I found a new useful tool, which is Dreamweaver, or specifically Dreamweaver's "Highlight Invalid Code" feature.


For some of the sites I work on, that are either personal projects, or small, where I'm not going to setup Nagios, Monit, or some other internal or serious solution, I've been looking for monitoring services. What I've found, and signed up for (all of these), and will compare over the next few weeks are:

Have others to recommend? Please do tell. Note, they basically have to be free, or super cheap (which for me right now translates to maybe a couple bucks a month if, and only if, they are providing something more than simple uptime watching and monitoring intervals 10 mins or less (less is great, most of the above range from 5-60 minutes depending).

20 December 2007

Amazon Kindle: First Use Thoughts

I received my Kindle the other day, and have had a chance to read with it for several hours now. So far, so great! I like it quite a bit. I'm going to keep this short, because the Kindle has been covered a lot elsewhere.

Things I like:

  • Trivial setup. The unit comes completely setup, tied to your account, and included all the books I'd already bought. All I had to do was turn the thing on and start using it. I did follow directions and plug it in to charge, which reached full within maybe 15 minutes. Also, the unit starts right into a quicky getting started, that I found to be just the right length and usefulness.

  • The "electronic ink" display is awesome. You can read this thing in any kind of light, no problems like you'd have with a laptop screen or many other devices. Very pleasant to read to as well, did not tire my eyes at all after several hours!

  • Easy to use UI. Basically, learn a couple buttons and the scroller and you're done.

  • Neato features like clippings, search, and bookmarks.

  • When the unit is in sleep mode, the display actually has an image on it, and it tells you how to wake it up (in case you forgot ;-)

What I don't like... I can really only think of two things to start off:

  • No PDF support. This is a pretty big deal. I knew this going in, but had read you could convert documents. You can, but have to use a Windows app, and it's unclear how well it works. I haven't tried it yet, but plan to. I was hoping to place some of the existing ebooks I have onto the Kindle this way. This is hands down my #1 complaint and the thing I truly hope Amazon can remedy. I understand the reasons, but I'd like to see them solve it, even if it's not ideal.

  • The price of subscribing to blogs. Usually it's cheap, such as $1/month, but really, blogs are free, and yes, obviously this is partially to cover Whispernet fees (which Amazon always says they cover in their docs, but obviously it's built into the price you're paying), and to cover management on your account, but seriously, it's a blog. How about you give us at least 10 for free, and then make them dirt cheap thereafter. Or at least don't tell us that you're covering the Whispernet fees.

All in all, I love this thing so far, and am really excited to see how I use it going forward. I very much like the idea that I can take this one thing when I travel, instead of having to either figure out what I might want to read ahead of time (I'm usually in the middle of a few books), or take multiple books with me. Also, nice to have even around the house, for just the ability to grab it and know I've got various reading material on it.

I will be most curious to see if I try blogs, newspapers, or magazines on it. Cost wise I probably won't, and I don't get a newspaper as it is (blogs, newspapers/news, I get all online). Magazines maybe, although most of the ones I read have a good visual component (various cycling mags, National Geographic Adventure and Outside, techy mags which typically don't translate to something like this very well, Wired, or whatever). Time will tell, but it's pretty cool so far.

26 November 2007

Ordered an Amazon Kindle

I bit the bullet and ordered up an Amazon Kindle ebook reading device. I'm a big reader and this thing has serious appeal. As Don MacAskill says, I am often into several books at a time, and don't know what mood I'll be in, so when traveling it's hard to trim down the list to something easy to travel with.

I am also very intrigued by its ability to send documents to it, in particular PDF. The PDF translation (to the MOBI format the Kindle needs) is apparently not perfect, but this is huge, as it'll allow me to take all the ebook versions of tech books I have and use with me. I always have these on my laptop, but there are times when I want to actually sit down and read some of them (as opposed to just do a quick lookup while coding).

It's pretty promising, and I promise to review it once I have it, which won't be for a few weeks (mid-December is my approx ship date).

17 November 2007

Killer New Cooking Tools

Well, really, I hope they aren't actually "killer", but I am talking about knives, and spinning blades...

I recently attended a knife skills class, and during the class got to try a slew of different types and brands of knives. I came away very impressed with Shun knives. Great feel, cut briliantly, and the food just falls off - no need for the hokey hollow ground divots, etc. Also, I was able to try the "Ken Onion" Shun knife in particular. This knife has a specially designed bolster/handle area, where your fingers can sit in the proper style. It also rocks really well while cutting. And technically, there is a whole range of Ken Onion knives know, it just seems that this one was the first and thus is what folks refer to as the Ken Onion.

A few weeks later I picked up a Ken Onion, a paring knife, and their cool new serrated "Ultimate utility knife" (I couldn't find this on Shun's site, so the link is to the online store of the place I bought it from). I also took in my Wusthof Grand Prix knifes to be sharpened. These have been great knives, but I actually think I will sell the two cook's knives and paring knife now that I have the Shuns. Eventually I will replace the others as well.

I returned a bit later to pick up my Wusthof's, and low and behold, the Shun rep was there for the day. I talked to him for maybe 10 minutes (I was actually in a hurry at the time). Luckily he clued me in that "diamond fingers" sharpeners, which work rally well on German/stainless steel, shouldn't be used on VG10 steel of Shun knives. I thus got Shun's sharpening steel, which handily has a properly angled bolster on it to help you be certain you are maintaining the proper angle on your edge.

Finally, somewhere in all this, I also picked up a Viking immersion/hand blender. I got a chance to use it for the first time tonight, and WOW, that thing rocks! Made itself worth it in one use. I was making potato leek soup, which needs to get pureed, and previously I had to do this by taking stuff out in batches and putting it in a food processor/blender - a total pain. With the immersion blender, obviously, you just pop the thing in the soup pot, and blend for seconds (it probably took me 20 seconds). This is going to be one nice addition to the kitchen tool chest.

Oh, one note on the Viking vs. others. The Viking is extra powerful and has two speed settings. The first speed setting is what most immersion blenders can dole out, the second is turbo. Also, it's blade guard/bottom area is a nice design that lets the food flow out much better than many of the others that have holes, but where those holes aren't open to the bottom. It also comes with a whisking attachment, and others are available (I got a mini-chopper one with mine due to a current promotion).

12 November 2007

Open Source, Linux-based, New Wireless Protocol Bike Computer

This is really amazing - an open source, Linux based, bike computer/cyclometer, that does GPS, heart rate, power metering, and all the usual other cyclometer stuff (speed, distance, etc.). The system is fully hackable, an intended to be hacked. They are also using Ant +Four, which is like Bluetooth for bikes. I blogged about this more, including the link to the video showing it, the company, etc, etc., on my Mountain Monkeys blog. Check it out, quite cool.

11 November 2007

What Leopard Changed for Me

I've been running Leopard for about two weeks or so now. It has not been the usual OS update where it has some nice eye candy improvements and some underpinning changes, but doesn't essentially affect the apps I run. Leopard has directly impacted the apps I run. There are also some that I've chosen not to switch to.


But first, wow, the little printed booklet that comes with Leopard... wow, a) I actually read it, and b) the info in it was actually useful! Hath hell froze over?! Printed documentation of value?! Woah nelly! Even better, it was short, easy to read, and to the point, with almost zero fluff. Way to go Apple.

The app changes...

Not a lot, but a couple key ones. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am no longer using Path Finder, because regular Finder has some great improvements, picks up some of the key features I used Path Finder for, and it eliminates needing an additional app, that didn't integrate as seamlessly as you'd hope.

Update (12 Nov 2007): A new version of Path Finder has been released that integrates MUCH better with Leopard, including supporting Quick View, and having an "Open in Finder" replacement that works completely. I'll have to see if I go back again to using Path Finder...

Second is iChat. The jury is still out on this one to be honest, but the fact that you can now login to multiple accounts on a single network (Jabber for me), all the video and screen sharing enhancements, and again, one less app to install and keep up to date, has led me to stop using Adium for now. We'll see. I've tried before, and iChat was not up to par, but this time it's looking like a replacement.

Other bits... Stacks are pretty cool, especially when you add overlays to keep them straight. Quick View rocks. Safari is definitely better, and thankfully the one feature Safari cannot seem to implement, for who knows what reason, is still solved by Saft. This is the feature of it remembering all the tabs you had open when you close the browser, and re-opening it with that. Saft also adds a great feature, which is to allow you to edit Text Area's with your favorite editor. This is key for me (I use(d) a similar plugin with Firefox).

What hasn't changed...

Time Machine. Yep, I am not a convert. Admittedly I haven't looked at every option, etc., but I'm a Super Duper! fan. Why? First I don't really need multiple revisions of files - any files I do need that for are already in a version control system. Second, one of the key features of Super Duper (or similar) backups, is that I have a complete clone of my drive, that I can boot off of. This has saved me a few times. What happens if your hard drive goes bad or something happens to your system. Fine, you restore from backup. But, what if you are in a time bind and you really need access to your files? Well, you can just boot off your backup, work there for a short bit, and then perform your restore/redo when time permits. No biggy. Yes, you lose whatever was changed between the time you did you clone backup and the current time, but for me that is often very little (due to what really matters being in version control, or being backed up by Jungle Disk every 15 minutes).

I still don't use Apple Mail. In fact, these days I don't use a desktop mail program, or rather, one that I POP or IMAP mail with. I use Mailplane, and all my email accounts are Gmail accounts (I have a half dozen or more at this point). Works extremely well for me.


The blog post, Dock Stack Overlays on the XD blog is really cool. It shows you how to put an overlay icon on your dock stacks, so that you always know which stack is which. This is incredibly useful if you use stacks (or more than one stack anyway). Great stuff.

10 November 2007

New Tools

I've been using a few new tools lately, and also got rid of one I've used a long time. First up, now that I'm running Leopard on my Macs, I've found I just don't need or want Path Finder. Path Finder has been great, I've used it for a few years now. But, with the new features in Finder, and the niggling issues I've had with Path Finder, it was finally time to end my use. The Finder's new sidebar, stacks, quick look, and the fact that you can show the directory path at the bottom of Finder windows (this was a big-little feature in Path Finder for me), brought me back to using it.

Update (12 Nov 2007): A new version of Path Finder has been released that integrates MUCH better with Leopard, including supporting Quick View, and having an "Open in Finder" replacement that works completely. I'll have to see if I go back again to using Path Finder...

Some new tools, both web and Mac that I've been using a fair bit lately include:

Mind Meister

I haven't used mind mapping tools much in the past. I've tried various ones several times, but they either were too cumbersome, too slow, or just didn't seem useful. I found out about MindMeister from someone on Twitter, and have a couple mind maps running on it now. I'm also collaborating on one of them with others. MM is fairly preferment, quite easy to use, nice to look at, and the collaboration bit is super nice. I'd like to see them add a way to insert a URL/link, where that link could be clicked on, but that's about the only issue I have so far. Interesting to note, if you get the Premium account (a measly $4/month!), they have offline editing. They are using Google Gears for this. Another intriguing bit is that they have an API. I haven't looked into this yet, or haven't thought about how I'd use it, but I always like to see services that have this as an option.

Mars Edit 2

The 2.0 version, now produced by Red Sweater Software is quite nice. In days of old, I'd preferred ecto, but this new version is simple, effective, fast, and quite nicely, has great Flickr integration. I've been using Flickr quite a bit, especially with my other blog, and often put multiple photos in a post. Mars Edit makes this trivial.


Navicat is a GUI database tool. I used to use CocoaMySQL, and YourSQL and such on Mac, but YourSQL doesn't seem to work these days, and CocoaMySQL seems out of date, and I think wasn't under development anymore(?). Navicat, while a commercial product, has been rock solid, and I've found to be quite useful. Admittedly, I use it a lot of simple browsing, simple queries and value changes, etc., but the dependability and quality of it have kept it in my tool chest (and got me to buy it). One other nice thing here is that while it has a real Mac UI, it is a tool also available on Linux and Windows.


Acorn is a slick, simple new image editor by Gus Mueller of Flying Meat Software (likely better known for VoodooPad). It's extremely fast to load up, and I'm finding it's my top pick to do things like saving images in another format (if they aren't in my Lightroom library - otherwise I use Lightroom), make minor tweaks, crops, etc. The speed is one of the best things - it launches super fast, and is very fast to use, so it's an excellent tool for quick work. Interesting note: you can write plugins in Python or Objective-C.

Pack Rat

I use 37 Signals Backpack extensively. It's my GTD system, and I keep tons of notes and information I need in it. Backpack's web interface is somewhat slow, especially if you switch between various pages a lot (and don't want to keep said pages in lots of browser tabs). I have a half completed AIR app to be my Backpack client, but Pack Rat seems to be the ticket now. It has synchronization, offline editing, and so on. I am sold, and have essentially not used my browser for Backpack since.

Panic Sans font

Last, but certainly not least, is the Panic Sans font. This is a fixed width font, great for coding. I've been using the Bitstream Vera Sans Mono font for quite some time, but Duncan's recent post about this discovered a few new ones. Panic Sans is actually a font found inside the Coda app's package. It's very similar to Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, but slightly nicer. Duncan's post has good info in that particular post, but also see some of his followup posts on the subject.

What's new in your tool chest?

07 November 2007

lselect: great Finder toolbar addition

lselect is a really handy Finder toolbar addition. It lets you select files, in Finder, using globs, just as you would on the command line. On the lselect page, if you download the "lselect-toolbar-app.zip", expand that somewhere (e.g. where they suggest on the web page), then drag it up to your Finder's toolbar to add it. Now, wherever you are in Finder, if you click this new toolbar button, it'll show you a dialog that lets you type in a glob pattern, and will then select all the files in your current location based on that glob. Pretty slick.

05 November 2007

WBC Champ Makes More Coffee Than Espresso - What's Happening?!

In Jimseven's (aka James Hoffman) latest blog entry, he says that he makes very little espresso these days in comparison to how much Chemex or press coffee he makes. This caught my attention as he's mentioned the Chemex a lot. I of course take note, given that this guy (jimseven is James Hoffman) is the 2007 World Barista Champion. Not that baristas don't make "regular coffee", but the WBC is all about espresso, and so on.

I like experimenting, and am tempted to get a Chemex just to see, but it seems almost every time I drink "coffee", it is rarely enjoyable (of course most espresso from cafes here in the US at least sucks as well). The other thing that is a big discussion in the coffee world these days is the Clover machine, which is basically sort of like an espresso machine, but for coffee, in that it makes one cup of coffee at a time, with grounds made separately, measured precisely, and so on. Some of the higher end coffee houses are getting them (Ritual in SF had one when I was there a few weeks ago, so I got to see it in person ;-) They are also a machine you can put on the net, and you can have it track all the coffees you make, as well as program it with various settings so you can just say, make a #3, which you know is all the settings you use with a particular coffee, etc. I think the machines cost several thousand bucks, so they aren't likely a home machine (and they may require a water connection). Of course Mark Prince of CoffeeGeek doesn't really like Clover coffee, for many of the same reasons I tend to not like coffee in general, which is that he claims it has almost no "body".

That's like coffee in general for me, in that espresso is this complete mouth experience, in that it has real density to it, and does all sorts of things to your tongue, much in the same way wines do, etc. Maybe I've just had too few good cups of "coffee", but coffee usually just winds up tasting like flavored brown water to me, as opposed to a liquid in its own category.

Note, I mean no offense at any of this, as one thing I love about the coffee world is the range of different preparations and opinions on what is great, etc. So, any of you espresso lovers out there, should I bother trying a Chemex?

31 October 2007

First CSA a Hit So Far

I only learned about CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) this year. They are beyond plentiful in Eugene, with I think something like 40-60 providers. We signed up for a fall CSA with Groundwork Organics. What this is, is a weekly delivery of locally, and with our choice, organically grown produce. In the spring we will likely sign up for multiple of them, with potentially one doing dairy and/or meat as well. Anyway, it's been really great so far. They provide a bunch of things that we wouldn't usually buy, or in some cases, have never even heard of!

We've had I think 3 deliveries now. Each week we've gotten 1-2 pounds of lettuce/greens (lots of spinach, field greens), a bunch or three of carrots, and then things like parsnips, beets, dill, Italian parsley, watercress, squash, potatos, onions, arugala, garlic, leeks, and more. The apples we got last week are the most flavorful apples I've had in a long time (they were "Liberty" apples I believe).

The delivery we got today included leeks, red potatos, and dill, with a recipe to go along with it (they always include recipes). It also included "Delicata squash" (roughly 8-10" long, white with green veins, and tubular, maybe 4" in diameter), with a recipe, and we'll try that out. I don't think we've bought salad greens at the market for a month due to this, which is great.

We've tried several things we have either never had, or needed to go find recipes to figure out what to do with it, etc. (the roasted parsnips were yummy). We used a bunch of the salad greens, carrots, etc. tonight, and I roasted up 4 heads of garlic as well.

I can't wait to see what the next one brings us, as well as what we sign up for in the spring (when the real CSA season occurs).

25 September 2007

New Espresso Machine Update

Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
So things have been continuing to improve in terms of my shots out of the new espresso machine. I've been getting more consistent and higher overall level of shots these days. A few things I'm finding important (some of this is obvious, well documented, etc., some slightly different, etc.)...

  • The grind is super important. I haven't been making hardcore truly micro adjustments yet (I haven't sat down and pulled zillions of shots in a row to experiment at that level yet), but I am making smaller adjustments and dialing things each day, etc.

  • The freshness of the beans makes a huge difference! This may seem obvious, but I'm finding that I now won't even bother with anything that isn't dated, and current

  • The roast of the beans is critical as well. Anything "over roasted" (extra dark and oily), is just pointless for me. I've yet to pull a good cup with one of those, and I have no interest in them it seems, since they seem to lose the caramel and subtle flavors, and enhance the roast/smoky flavor. As I've known, but now proved further, I too am in the "Northern Italian" camp for bean choice.

  • I've had great success using a grounds distribution technique I saw at Wandering Goat: I use the side of the palm of my hand to distribute the grounds, and mostly just back and forth, but ensuring that I get a really even distribution, and proper amount of grinds.

  • Better on my tamp pressure, and more consistent. Don't tamp the crap out of it, do indeed stick to the ~30lbs force, which is not as much as it seems.

Right now I'm awaiting arrival of my bottomless/crotchless portafilter, as well as a custom handmade tamper from Thor Tampers.

The best shot I've made to date is from Zoka Paladino beans, later in their life (probably about 10 days I think). Great taste, and then brilliant aftertaste, with the effect on your tongue the same as a wine with heavy tannins (sort of drys it out), and superb chocolate flavors coming out. This is pretty cool because usually Zoka is more on the smoky side for me, so this was a real transition. The shot in this picture used Vivace Dolce.

24 September 2007

Installing Ruby MySQL Gem with MacPorts MySQL

Blogging this more for my own record, but maybe others will find it useful... Tonight I was having a hard time getting the MySQL Ruby Gem installed on a new MacBook Pro. I have installed Ruby, Rails, RubyGems, MySQL, etc. via MacPorts (or via the Ruby that was installed via MacPorts). Anyway, this is the command that finally got it to work:

sudo gem install mysql -- --with-mysql-include=/opt/local/include/mysql5 --with-mysql-lib=/opt/local/lib/mysql5 --with-mysql-config=/opt/local/lib/mysql5/bin/mysql_config

Update: as I mention in my comment below (updating here in case folks don't read the comments), when doing this on Leopard/MacOS X 10.5, I needed to change it to:

sudo env ARCHFLAGS="-arch i386" gem install mysql -- --with-mysql-include=/opt/local/include/mysql5 --with-mysql-lib=/opt/local/lib/mysql5 --with-mysql-config=/opt/local/lib/mysql5/bin/mysql_config

12 September 2007

My New Espresso Setup

My new espresso setup
Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
Today I finally got to getting the new espresso machine all setup, in its final (for now?) resting place, and started to pull some shots. So far, average, but I'm just starting to learn to dial in the grinder, tamping, shot duration; and I'm not using a coffee I've liked that much (but it was free with the purchase, and I figured I might as well start out with something I didn't mind wasting a lot of shots of :) Anyway, all the pictures are here:


Initial impressions... First, I was pissed for a short while, because the machine didn't work out of the box! It didn't heat up properly. I called tech support, and they pointed me to instructions on how to reset the Hi Limit on the temperature. Did that to no avail. Then, as I simply looked around the insides of the machine, I saw a friggin wire was not connected! It was just off the terminal (used those nice plastic enclosed flat connectors), so it was real obvious where it went. Plugged that in, and voila, everything good now. Phew. Bad start though.

Getting past that, holy shite... The first thing you notice is the weight! Super heavy: 61 pounds! The other thing that simply rocks is the sheer amount of metal, the entire thing is stainless steel, or brushed steel (the internals of the drip tray are brushed metal, seems like everything else is stainless). It is incredibly beautiful at the same time as being totally kick ass industrial.

Next, nice big steam wand, dedicated hot water wand (very convenient for warming cups), burly lever action, heavy portafilter with E61 grouphead, and simple to use (mechanically - putting aside the art and science of pulling a perfect shot). On to the actual espresso...

So, first I ran a bunch of pre-ground Illy through that I had from buying the an Illy cup collection (No Water, No Coffee). That simply gave me a feel for pulling a shot, but the results sucked (minimal, crappy crema). After a half dozen of those, I fired up the new Macap MC4 doserless grinder. I filled it up with Malabar Gold, as that came for free with the machine, and while this may seem odd to some, it was a roast I hadn't liked much in the past. I figured I might as well waste a bunch of something I didn't care much for, while I started tuning the grinder, etc. Instantly I was at least getting crema, and better shot times (I was pulling doubles for all these, so approx 25 seconds).

After a couple, I started futzing with the grind setting, dialing it finer, to slow the shots down a bit, and thicken things up. I'm still playing, but I can at least pull something I find reasonable to drink. I will by no means claim to be pulling stellar shots at this point. It's at least thicker flavor and such than my super-auto, but it's definitely not honey yet.

I haven't even touched steaming yet, and probably won't for some time

Finally, I'm reading David Schomer's book (from what I understand, THE reference). I'm not too far in yet, but so far it's an easy, and seemingly good read, and I assume I'll learn a ton.

All in all, the journey has started. Interestingly, I recently found out that the "Best Coffee School" is right here in Eugene. That's the actual name of the place, and apparently people from all over the world come to get schooled here. They offer courses that range from basics, up to the longest course which trains you to run your own cafe and on the last/graduation day, the class runs their cafe.

06 September 2007

First Day of Being an Indi

Yesterday was my first day of being an "Indi", as in an independent contractor/web worker/having my own company, etc.  I'm working on some contracts, started the process on forming an LLC, etc.  I decided to use MyCorporation.com for the LLC formation, to lessen the amount I need to do.  They called me this morning to say everything was in order, and they're submitting my forms, etc.  I also bought the .com and .net domain names for the new company (name forthcoming, once I ensure the LLC goes through).  

I now need to get the logo worked on, bank account, and AMEX card, finish evaluating hosting providers and so on.  I plan to be building a few web apps of my own, with hopes that I can grow that into what makes my living, but will also be working part time for a company to start off (and have a guaranteed source of income).  I'm loving this already...

03 September 2007

Early September Sunsets

Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey
We very frequently get amazing sunsets here at our house in Eugene. Tonight's was another great one, and while I decided late to get my camera out, still got a few decent images.

Here's the collection of five that I got tonight.

New Espresso Machine and Grinder

I'm finally stepping up to very serious espresso machine (and likely selling my super-auto).  I just purchased an Expobar Brewtus II machine.  My understanding is that this is the creme de la creme of machines, unless you can shell out over $4000 for a La Marzocco GS/3, which is the ultimate home machine (and would actually kick the ass of many of the machines used in cafes and so on).  

For a grinder, I finally decided on a Macap MC4C83R Doserless.  The big learning point was about going doserless, which is the way to go for a home machine, because you don't pull shots constantly, and thus extra grounds would get left in a doser, going stale quickly.  I looked at various grinders and discussed a lot with cafe folks I trusted, friends who'd researched it, a few key blogs, CoffeeGeek, Chris Coffee (or specifically Chris, from Chris Coffee), etc.  The doserless Rocky is the usual starting point, but various reasons led me away.  First, the finish/appearance.  Sure, that's not the most important point, but when you have a beautiful chrome machine, you don't want a black, plastic grinder sitting next to it.  Second, it's burrs won't last as long, and aren't as good as those of a Macap or Mazzer.  How about a Mazzer Mini?  Well, they have a doser, and the doserless one, the Mini E, or Mini Electric costs $700 - so you are basically paying more than $200 MORE to go doserless (when in fact, you'd think you'd go less for not having a doser (although it does have extra electronics I guess).  The Macaps rival the Mazzers in grind quality, so no hesitation there.

I also picked up a Bumper tamper, knock box, and tamper stand, and some cleaning supplies, etc.  All this stuff should arrive this week, so I'm pretty excited.  

01 September 2007

Eugene Restaurant Review: Marché

I had been told that Eugene had a lot of great restaurants. We've been here for a few months now, and I hadn't really felt that Eugene had lived up to that, in fact, I'd been fairly disappointed so far. Tonight changed that in a big way. My wife, parents, and I had dinner at Marché.  

Dinner was superb!  All of us thoroughly enjoyed it.  The atmosphere was great - clean, crisp, yet warm, and relatively casual.  We had reservations and were seated promptly at a nice corner table.  Our waitress was great, and was helpful with the wine choices.  She knew the wines on their list quite well, as well as knew California vs. Oregon characteristic differences and other points that helped.  

We started off with some great cocktails, and placed our order:
  • My mom: Heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad, side of chard to split with my dad, and the fresh, Chinook salmon.
  • My dad: Heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad, and the pork chops.
  • My wife: Trio of bruschetta for appetizer, and then she went for the heirloom tomato salad, side of onion rings, and side of beans with bleu cheese, for her entrée.
  • Myself: Breaded/fried oysters, and the duck.
First off, the heirloom tomato salad was absolutely outstanding, all of us couldn't stop raving.  The tomatoes were perfect, the goat cheese was outstanding, and at the proper temperature, and the light dressing was killer (so good we asked how they made it, and plan to try to reproduce it at home :)  I ate a chunk of my wife's salad, and again, just stellar.
The fried oysters were ok, and are something sort of unusual for me anyway.  I think slightly lacking in flavor, but honestly, with all the other awesome food we had, it was fine, and we ate them all.

As for the entree's, all of them were excellent.  My mom loved her salmon, and I tried the pork which was very good - very juicy and tender, so often restaurants dry out pork, but not at all in this case.  Also, the grilled peaches that went with it were a really great match, and a nice change from the the more typical apples.  

The duck I had was hands down the best duck I've had in as long as I can recall.  I don't order duck all that often, but had it recently in the Bay area, and it was pretty average on that occasion.  The duck came sliced, rare, with a extremely tasty crust around the edges, and in the most wonderful sauce!  Everyone was going nuts for the sauce, and in fact, we had them bring a little extra bowl for dipping the onion rings, as we found that a great combo :)  The sauce was the perfect amount too - by no means swimming in it, but also, enough to coat some of the potatoes and chard.

Speaking of chard, yes, we had a lot, given two of our entrees came with it, and we had two sides.  It was so darn good though that we ate nearly all of it, and took the remainder home.  Perfectly cooked, great seasoning, oh, just so good.  I wish I had more room, as I'd have finished it off.

Finally, we managed to save enough room to have some dessert.  My dad and I split the cheese plate, and my wife had the creme brulee.  First, thank you Marché for not putting berries in the creme brulee!  Very good.  The cheese plate had a small serving of the same goat cheese used on the heirloom tomato salad, and a Camembert I particularly liked.  Given the intent for this to be a dessert for one person, it was a good portion, but since we split it, I'd probably have liked to have one more cheese (not that our stomachs needed it!).  We also had some espresso.

The food was so good, I almost forgot we had wine.  Aside from a glass of malbec we sent back (and indeed, the waitress had told us it wasn't the best), the cab was good.  We had wound up going with just wine by the glass, as honestly, their wine prices are quite high - even by California standards.  They had a fair number of good wines, but with cocktails, and the prices of the wine, we just decided to skip it.  I guess that would be about my only knock.  Aside from that, outstanding.  Definitely the best meal I've had in Eugene, and Marché gets my vote as the best restaurant in town (that I've been to so far anyway). I would highly recommend it.

Update: I also posted this review here on Yelp. I'm finding Yelp more useful for restaurant reviews than say Eugene Weekly's food thing.

22 August 2007

I am 73% Optimus Prime

Take the Transformers Quiz

15 August 2007

Green Buildings Story: My Adobe Building Photo Used

I was happy to receive email from Grist, which just did an article on 15 Green Buildings.  They used one of my photos of the Adobe Systems buildings in San Jose (see building #8 in the article).  Here's the full photo on Flickr.  I myself have become very interested in being "green" and have been increasing my own efforts.  Good job to Grist for observing the Creative Commons license, and glad I could help with such an article.

09 August 2007

New Visionary Saver screensaver on the horizon

I've put a bit more work into the Visionary Saver screensaver, and should have a new version out soon. I'm likely going to have delay on the multi-monitor stuff. Getting all the preferences right for that is somewhat of a UI mess (especially for those of us who deal with multiple multi-monitor setups for a single computer).

On another note, I've added the "ThisWorld" visualization. Gary's FlickrTicker will be fully supported as well.

Depending on what work I get done on it this weekend, or in the next evening or two, I plan to have a new version out early next week, or this weekend.

30 July 2007

New MacBook Pro Recommendations?

I'm planning to replace my dual G5 tower (personal machine) with a new MacBook Pro, 17". I need to get down to a store and see if I can look at this in person, but doing so in Eugene, may be hard. So, I'm soliciting advice on two issues:

  1. Should I get matte or glossy display? The glossy sure looks cool, but how susceptible is it to glare? I don't have a lot of glare in my work environment, so maybe that's moot and the glossy is better? What do folks think? Does it make a difference in color correction? I've found that Galbraith and such have tested with the matte displays, and that I really like having my monitors color corrected.
  2. Since I'm going with the 17", I'm debating whether to go with the higher resolution version. My primary work mode will be with a 24" (or larger) monitor hooked up, so I use the laptop screen either if I'm on the road, not at my regular desk, and as a secondary monitor at my desk (typically for IM windows and similar). Is the higher res a lot harder to read, or? What are the pros and cons?
In general, this will be my do-everything machine. Personal stuff, as well as development projects of my own, etc. Thus, everything from email and Quicken to heavy coding, Lightroom/photo work, etc.

03 July 2007

You don't always get what you pay for (IBM: $30m, 2 years; us: $3m, 1yr)

I just found out today, from the gentleman I did a consulting gig with a few years ago, that the company we did the architecture for (but who declined having us do the project), had IBM do it instead. That's not the interesting part (especially since during this time the company hired an ex-IBMer). The interesting part, as I was informed, is that IBM used our architecture (admittedly that's how it was explained, and we didn't get into details, but still), but took two years to do the project, and charged $30m!!! As I recall, we'd bid it at around a year, and I think around $2-3m! Either the project changed a lot, or that is just gross. I suspect IBM went in and did some massively overdone EJB implementation (this was a Java project, and I'd done a very basic prototype using Spring, Hibernate, and Velocity or JSP).

25 June 2007

GPS Data for Canon DSLR's?

Moose Peterson recently blogged about this really cool mini-GPS that mounts on the hot shoe of Nikon DSLR's. I'm wondering if there is anything like this for Canon's, in particular the Rebel XTi, or 30D, etc. I would also be ok if there was a solution that connected my Garmin 60CSx to my XTi to automatically store GPS data in the EXIF info.

20 June 2007

iPhoneDevCamp at Adobe San Francisco (free event)

Check out the iPhoneDevCamp, which is being held at Adobe's San Francisco office July 6-8. This is a free event, and features presentations, development projects, and demos.

15 June 2007

Fixes for Capistrano 2's Perforce

I'm starting to convert to Capistrano 2. We use Perforce, and I've found a simple typo/bug in Capistrano 1.99.1. The fix is simple:On line 57 of recipes/deploy/scm/perforce.rb, change the use of "revno" to "rev_no".

Now, the question is, where is the Capistrano bug DB, or where/how do I submit this to them?

I reported this to the mailing list, and Jamis has already checked in the fix in SVN. Capistrano lives in the Rails Trac.

Perforce Implementation for CruiseControl.rb

While I haven't had a chance to clean up the code, folks have asked for it, so I'm making my Perforce implementation for CruiseControl available. There are some important notes:

  • You need to set up your project manually, you can't do an "add" via CruiseControl.
  • Some work needs to be done on the text retrieval for checkin messages, and how that's displayed on the CC.rb results pages.
However, so far it's been working fairly well for me. Feel free to use this as you need. I have not yet submitted it to the CC.rb folks, as I hadn't had time to clean it up yet. So, if you dial it in better, please do submit it to them, or send me your changes, and I'll submit it, etc.

To install/use it:
  • Put the perforce.rb file into your cruisecontrol/app/models directory.
  • Manually setup your project:

    • Create a directory under the cruisecontrol/projects directory.
    • Place a cruise_config.rb file in it. It should contain something like the following in order to use Perforce:
    Project.configure do |project|
    # Use Perforce for source control
    project.source_control = Perforce.new(
    :port => 'your.perforce.server:1666',
    :clientspec => 'clientspec-for-cruisecontrol',
    :user => 'buildusername',
    :password => 'builduserpassword',
    :path => '//depot/path/to/your/rails/app/...')
    • Sync your code once.
    • Fire up CruiseControl, and let the games begin.
Usual disclaimer: I take no responsibility for your systems, code, etc. Read the code, test it out, backup your systems, etc.

Update: I've now given this an official home on GitHub. See the cruisecontrolrb_perforce project there. Fork at will, and please do send me Pull requests if you enhance the code, or at least tell me about your version, and I'll put that in the README or on the wiki, etc.

06 June 2007

Our Servers

Rack And Stack
Originally uploaded by • g l u b •
Gary got a nice shot of some of the servers we've recently racked up.

04 June 2007

Visionary Saver Updates Coming...

I've been swamped at work, so haven't had much time to work on Visionary Saver. But, I should have an update in the next week or two. Some of the things I'm working on:

  • Multi-monitor support: allowing you to pick which visualization(s) you want on each monitor (or fully random)
  • Adding a new Flickr visualizer: FlickrTicker
  • More options for various visualizers
  • Looking into enabling use of the mouse while the screen saver is running
Thanks everyone for the support!

In the mean time, to get the existing version, click here.

02 June 2007

New Home AV Stuff

Today the installers wrapped up the bulk of the new home theater and whole-house audio additions, changes, upgrades, etc. The house had come with a Nuvo Concerto system for whole-house audio. But, we wanted really good iPod control, so we upgraded (for cost difference) to the new Grand Concerto system, that has these improved touch pads (instead of keypads), and does full metadata display for iPods, radio, XM radio, and so on. They are really nice and we're stoked to have XM now (before it was a dual AM/FM tuner, which we swapped out for a dual AM/FM + XM). The iPod dock part shows up next week, can't wait for that.

They also installed the new Samsung 50" plasma, wall mounted, and then racked up the equipment in the little AV closet in our bonus room. Nice setup, but I think we'll likely have to get more ventilation in the little closet, it gets pretty hot in there.

They still have a bunch of othe wiring to do in the house, as we're having some ethernet and other stuff re-jiggered, and they didn't finish programming the killer Universal Remote Control MX-3000. Of course, I'll want to get my hands on programming this as well. You can do all sorts of crazy stuff with it.

The funny part is we probably wouldn't have done half of this if the Nuvo system didn't already come with the house. But now that we have it, boy is it nice. Being able to have music all through the house (and different choices in different rooms), as well as on the deck (that's my favorite!) is just so nice. We watched a movie on the new plasma tonight and it was great, plus super sound in that room. There are better plasmas, but for the money this one is extremely nice. BTW, we have a Loewe 42" plasma for sale if anyone is interested (no, you don't even want to know what that cost, it's rather embarrassing in fact). Anyway, as you can tell, I'm pretty giddy about it all.

01 June 2007

Online/Offiline Web Apps: Why Does the Browser Matter?

For a few months now we've been seeing more offline web app support. This includes technologies like Apollo, some of the tricks people are using with Firefox (like ), http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif, and lately .http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

What amazes me is how much people want to seem to stay within a web browser. They're trying so hard to cram a feature into a space that wasn't designed for it, not to mention is just a crappy solution. No doubt there are a few nice uses of offline support for a pure browser-based app, but why haven't more people started to realize how much better they can do by going beyond the browser? Why do you want the browsers UI to be your dominant surrounding UI? Why do you want to be constrained to the browser's window, and force your user's to have your app running in another http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifapp, that doesn't have it's own dock/task bar icon or ability to interact with the OS?

I also don't think it's an all or nothing situation. I value having a browser-based UI available to me, so that when I'm not using one of my computers, I can still view my data. I don't expect the experience to be as good, and it can lack features, but I can get to the data in a pinch. But, I would much rather have dedicated applications for the "web applications" I use a lot. Examples of this would be Backpack, project tracking systems (currently I use Scrumworks, which has a Java desktop client that works with their web app, and Basecamp), music players, weather watchers, GotAPI, Twitter, and many others.

There are some examples popping up. Twitter has Twitterific, and FineTune has their Apollo player. These are both excellent examples of how deficient the browser is for many web applications, and how much better you can do outside the browser.

I admit that Apollo is really what took my thinking on this to the next level. You no longer have the excuse that you don't know native code or native code toolkits and such. Building an Apollo app can be done the same as you'd build a web app, and even gives you the choice of Flex or HTML, or a combination (this gets very powerful). You can even simply pop an existing web app into an HTML view in an Apollo window, and thus have a dedicated application (doesn't give you much more but at least you aren't just a tab in your browser, and can display it on a different virtual desktop or size the window differently than your browser window, etc.).

To make this more positive, this is a call to all web developers to think hard about this. Even if you don't need offline support, or you don't need it right away, think about the user experience and how you might create that much better of an app by not being constrained to a browser. I won't have anything in the next week, but yes, I'll be eating my own dogfood, and having some apps out soon enough (watch this space).

23 May 2007

Initial Implementation of Perforce for CruiseControl.rb

I got the Perforce support for CruiseControl.rb working this evening. I haven't done extensive tests yet, but seems to be going ok. I need to polish up a few bits, and then I'll post it (as well as submit a patch to the CruiseControl.rb project).

Bug in Perforce's Marshaled Ruby Output?

I'm working through this with Perforce tech support right now, but wondering if anyone else has seen this (since they didn't seem to know if it off-hand and it seems pretty significant)...

If I use the "-R" flag with Perforce commands, to get the output as Marshaled Ruby, with some commands, I only get the first file or item back. Specifically I'm seeing this with "sync" and "changes" commands. For example:

p4 -R sync
p4 -R changes -m 10

I am consuming these with code similar to:

Marshal.load(`p4 -R sync`)

I'm using Ruby 1.8.6 from MacPorts, on a MacBook Pro running MacOS X 10.4.9, and Perforce client "P4/MACOSX104X86/2006.2/112639 (2006/12/14)".

Update: Turns out that the output is still individual lines, but where the lines are marshalled Ruby. So, you simply need to process each line, with something like:

CMD="p4 -R sync"
IO.popen(CMD, "rb") do |file|
while not file.eof
hash = Marshal.load(file)
synced_files << hash['data']

22 May 2007

Perforce for CruiseControl.rb

Tonight I'm doing a quick bit of hacking to see if I can implement Perforce support for CruiseControl.rb. It looks promising, but we'll see. Perforce and SVN are quite different beasts. One cool thing though, Perforce has a -R flag to all commands that say to return the output as marshalled Ruby (they also have this for Python). This is very handy when writing scripts.

Also, if someone has already done this (i.e. my Google searches for it were too feeble), please let me know!

19 May 2007

RailsConf Day 3

There were a couple good sessions at RailsConf today. In particular Ezra's talk on performance, and the demo show was great. After the sessions, headed into town for a good dinner. We hit the Portland Steak and Chophouse for a quite leisurely and good dinner. Fried oysters and drinks, great steaks, and a nice bottle of Stag's Leap. Then it was on to Pivotal Labs party at the Rock Bottom Brewery which was fun. Played many rounds of pool where Aaron from Revolution Health showed us how it was done. Thanks to Ian and the folks from Pivotal for the party.

p.s. Jeff - I'll get you the yo-yos one way or another...

New Version of Twittervision Screen Saver

I've put up a new version of Visionary Saver the Twittervision/Flickrvision, and now Twittervision 3D and Twitter Flash RailsConf visualizers. The options panel is a bit different now - it's just checkboxes. If you want to randomize between different visions, just check which ones you'd like to randomize for.

I'm still at RailsConf, but will be home this coming week and can then work on settings for which saver you want to run on which monitor of a multiple monitor setup, so stay tuned.

Download Visionary Saver

18 May 2007

RailsConf Day 2

Day 2 of RailsConf has drawn to a close for me. Back in my room, ready to pretty much collapse. It's been an extremely busy month leading up to today for me, and I'm now really looking forward to the next two days as a) the two presentations I/we did are done (both went fairly well today I think), b) the sale of my house in CA closed, and they finished up the flood repair on Wednesday, c) wrapping up a week of travel, and d) resting a bit from putting in some serious hours at work for the last several weeks. It all adds up to one tired guy (the house stuff felt like a second job! Some day I'll elaborate on that saga).

Tonight, Andrew S (Adobe), Peter Armstrong (buy his book, Flexible Rails), and my presentation partner in crime, Chris H (thanks for TwitterRailsConf), and I went to dinner at Pazzo, which is a great Italian restaurant. Most of us were about ready to fall asleep by the end (Peter, wake up!). MAXed back to the hotel, then CH and I hung in the bar for a while after. Heh, you should have seen the size of the "double" gin they gave me (and that was so they could charge me less as a martini, instead of the single rocks I asked for - whatever). This thing was probably a quad. I barely dented it, and am now blogging and winding down, then will crash.

RailsConf, and Presentation Day

Today is the big day for us: our two presentations at RailsConf. In the morning my co-worker, Chris Haupt, and I are presenting a session purely on Apollo. If you don't know much about Apollo, or want to find out more, join us for this. Then, in the afternoon, we'll jump into using Apollo with Rails, and our experiences in that regard. Both talks will include demos and code.

If you attended Peter Armstrong's BOF on Flex and Rails last night (which was great, good job Peter!), come see the Apollo talks to see how you can take that even further with what Apollo adds to Flex.

17 May 2007

RailsConf version of Apollo TwitterCamp App

My co-worker Chris Haupt has tweaked the TwitterCamp Apollo app, for displaying RailsConf tweets. Very nice. You can get it on the RailsConf wiki "Toys" page.

15 May 2007

Twittervision/Flickrvision - the Screen Saver

I think Twittervision, and Flickrvision are really cool. However, I thought, to be even better, why not have them as a screen saver?! So, last night I whipped up a MacOS X screen saver that shows these. You can choose one or the other, or have it randomly choose which one to use. This is literally a quick hack. I plan to add some other visualizations, such as Breathing Earth, and others (send me your suggestions).

Download Visionary Saver

10 May 2007

Bug in ActiveResource's HttpMock?

I'm using ActiveResource a fair bit now. It's working fairly well, even with our non-standard XML and so on. Testing it works ok with use of HttpMock (see this blog entry for a way to do it). But, I've found that HttpMock appears to have a bug in how it deals with headers, and comparing the request you're making and the known requests. If the order of the keys in the header hash differs, they will fail to compare equally, and thus fail to match. To resolve this, I've modified the HttpMock::Request#hash method. It used to look like this:

def hash

I changed it simply to this:

def hash

I will figure out how to post a bug report on this, but wanted to post here first in case there's a different solution, or disagreement that this is a bug.

Update: I've filed a bug in Rails trac. You can find it here.

03 May 2007

Adobe Acquiring Scene7

Adobe is acquiring Scene7, who make superb technology for media delivery amongst other things. If you've ever browsed various Amazon merchants, Sears, Macy's, Land's End, and many other clothing and other such merchants online, who show their products in all the different colors and styles, etc., they're using Scene7 to do it. This is their dynamic imaging product. They also make eCatalogs, and various other things. Great stuff, check it out.

27 April 2007

New Networked Printer, Scanner, Fax: Epson AcuLaser

This is an initial blurb on the new Epson AcuLaser CX11NF all-in-one laser I recently hooked up. The short story so far is, there are a few setup tricks, but the thing is awesome in general. I am only using this machine from a Mac, but it works with at least Windows machines as well (and has a few more features when using Windows - like being able to do scans from the unit and send them to your machine).

The CX11NF is a color laser printer, color fax, color copier, and both flat bed and sheet fed scanner. That's a mouth-full. So far I've used the printer, copier, and flat bed scanner. Setup was easy - they provide very good clear instructions on unpackaging it and getting the toner carts installed, etc. Also, the box it came in is designed really well. The unit weights in at 75 pounds, so you dread having to "dump" it out of the usual cardboard box, but no. With this setup, there are plugs at the bottom of the box that you pull out, and then the top and sides of the box pull right off, leaving the bottom of the box and printer there. REALLY NICE.

Software setup is my only gripe so far, and it wasn't too bad. I'm using it as a network printer. When I first ran their software, it just seemed to sit there forever trying to launch the first sub-installer. I had to go manually launch that, and then things worked fine. I also found that in order for Bonjour printing (the "easy" way use it as a network printer) to actually work, I needed to download the latest drivers. I also got the latest scanner drivers while I was there.

Also, for network scans, you need to run their Epson Scan Settings app that they silently put into your Applications/Utilities folder. This app launches and finds the printer (or you can type in the IP address, if say you're using it from a different subnet/VPN). Then it works great.

I am using the printer from both PowerPC and MacTel Macs, all over network, and on different subnets (one is also behind VPN, but which tunnels into my main subnet for access to things like printers). For the Mac on VPN, I needed to setup the printer using IPP, but once I typed in the IP address, it found it and detected the model and the right driver, etc.

The printer is very fast (at least for B&W, I haven't tried color yet). I don't recall the exact speed, but it spits out pages nearly instantly for B&W, and the quality is excellent.

The scanner works well too. I've only used it from Photoshop so far, using their TWAIN import, but it has all the usual stuff (seems like the scan interface is very similar to the one for our higher end Epson Perfection V700 Photo scanner (which rocks - I highly recommend for photo).

So far so good. Having a real network printer, etc. is great in my situation since we have a lot of machines in the house. It's also nice to get rid of the few separate devices I had before, and to pick up a sheet fed scanner in the process. Also, having a color printer that isn't a photo printer is handy at times. We'll see how continued use goes, but I would recommend this unit so far.

Tip of the hat to Macworld for the useful review on this device.

24 April 2007

Cool Akamai Network Comparison Web App

Akamai has a cool data visualization application that compares network routes. It is done in Flash, and is pretty slick.

23 April 2007

Ordered New Bike: Niner

Today I ordered a new bike, a Niner MCR9. It will not replace any of my existing bikes, but will become both a "town" bike, and an alternate mountain bike (to my Reign). It'll be very alternate, or rather alternative to the Reign, given that it's a 29er and fully rigid! I haven't ridden a rigid mtb since probably 1994, although that rigid bike's frame is still in my garage.

I was interested in going S.S., but with the super steep hills near my house, and the multi-purpose nature of the bike, I really needed some gears. I'm going with their X9 build kit, but will swap the tires out for some Schwalbe Big Apple 2.3's for town riding. I plan to eventually get a set of tubeless 29er wheels for dedicated mtb riding.

To compliment the wild "Tang" orange color I went with, I ordered up the Crank Bros Mallet pedals in orange. With nearly everything else on the bike being black, it should be pretty cool. Should vaguely look like this, except I'll have the rigid orange fork.

20 April 2007

Ultimate Espresso

The other day I talked with Michael at Wandering Goat in Eugene for a while. We'd had some discussions in email, and I headed down to buy some Chupacabra beans from them, and say hi. I did that, but we also talked quite a while about espresso, machines, and grinders. He gave me some great tips.

First, Wandering Goat is my favorite choice of coffee beans right now. They are also simply an awesome company that is well comitted to organic, fair trade coffee, as well as super environmental preparation (their roaster is the only one of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, producing I think they said 80% less biproduct/polutants, etc.). The shop is also cool. It's a little off the beaten path, but in downtown (on Madison between 2nd and 4th). And, I had a truly, truly, superb macchiato there yesterday (and yes, the real kind, not that abomination Starbucks makes).

I've been wanting to get a serious espresso machine, that is not a super-auto like I have now. I have the best super auto at the moment, but you just can't tweak it further, and they don't generate the same pressure levels as a semi-auto. I had been eyeing an Rancilio Silvia, but Michael turned me on to the Expobar Brewtus II, which in checking appears to be the absolute finest home machine on the planet (and the only one with a double boiler). As he mentioned, your abilities will not exceed this machine. It ain't cheap, although it's less than my super auto! But then you factor in a grinder.

I have an ok grinder, but was eyeing a Mazzer Mini. He suggested getting a Mazzer Super Jolly instead of the mini, and said to check eBay (or eBay Tagex). It's awesome, because you can pick up a Super Jolly, normally a $1000 grinder, for like $250, and then buy new burr heads for it for $50. So, that's a $1000 grinder for $300. I just checked and there are two Super Jolly's up there right now. Also, you can put the Mini's bean holder on a Super Jolly to cut down on size, but still have the larger burr heads of the Super Jolly.

17 April 2007

Enter Escrow... Have a Flood

Wow, this really sucks. Got a call this morning to tell us that the first floor of our house was flooded, due to a burst pipe. It appears to be one of the flex hoses under the sink in our kitchen island. These are hoses that the builder is at fault for, because other people in the neighborhood have had this problem, and the builder hasn't come through and fixed them all. It was on my list of things to have them come out and do, so uh, it just went up in priority (and they'll have to pay for all the damage). The carpet & restoration folks are already there drying things out.

An odd coincidence is that the buyer's home inspector was there this morning. I guess he stopped the leak, but there was a lot of water, so likely they'll get all new wood floors and carpet (I expect the limestone floor is fine).

We're in better shape than the folks across the street who had one burst upstairs and are in their fourth month of work to fix all the damage. Ugh. Luckily also, our buyers love our house, and this is not stopping the sale/escrow. They already said they want to put the same carpet in as they loved the carpet we had.

I'll be spending a good chunk of the rest of my day talking to my attorney, the builder, real estate agents, and so on. Oh, and I will be checking my new house for these problem hoses as well.

16 April 2007

Adobe CS3 (Creative Suite 3) Ships!

And the crowd goes wild! Yep, Adobe CS3 started shipping today. Check out the site. I'm proud to have contributed to Photoshop ("Ps") CS3. Specifically I worked on Photoshop Extended, on the measurement bits, and some small scripting bits.

14 April 2007

Eugene (Oregon) People are So Nice!

It's really interesting to see how different people are here in Eugene/Oregon. Everyone is so nice and friendly. It's quite different than California. After my flight home from the Bay area on Thursday, I talked to three people at some length, while getting off the plane, walking over to baggage, waiting for bags, etc.

Rich was also a CA transplant, and had in fact come from the same place as we had. We talked for quite some time about kids, his grandkids, golf (and the crazy Bandon, OR golf scene and real estate situation), etc.

After talking to Rich, I talked to Karen who is the director of emergency services for the Red Cross (for 7 counties here). She mentioned the kids ID event that was happening this weekend, which is great, as we'll go do that.

Prior to Rich and Karen, at the end of my flight I talked to the man sitting next to me (he slept during the flight, and I worked). He has a crazy job, where he works on construction projects in Vegas (currently on the Venetian plaza). He is in Vegas for 6 weeks, then home for 5 days, then back - all the time. He's been doing this for 15 years! He loves Oregon, and has grown very tired of Vegas (where I believe he said there is now a shooting every 8 hours!).

Yesterday I also talked to one of my neighbors, Dino, who I hadn't met yet. He's the owner/builder of one of the houses next to us. Good guy, and he took some time out to talk about some house stuff. For example, after I saw his outdoor fireplace (which I'd love!), he talked about how we could do that on our deck, costs, options, etc. It wasn't a sales pitch (wouldn't be something he, as the "builder", would do anyway), just nice neighborly chatter.

What struck me about these folks was simply has easy going, nice, friendly, etc. they were. The conversations simply flowed with no effort. Sure I've had talks like this with people in CA (you'd hope so given I grew up there, and have lived there all but 5 years of my life). But it's just different. You can "feel" the difference. At times it's also weird. I think we've grown used to being sometimes suspicious, guarded with our kids, etc. So we're learning the more pleasant openness of the Oregon culture.

13 April 2007

Forget irb, Use TextMate

I often play around with Ruby code to try things out. irb is of course a great Ruby interactive shell for this. However, what it's less good at is multi-line code, or more complicated code, and simply refining code that you execute over and over (in particular when it's multi-line). Solution: use TextMate instead. As TextMate users know, you can run arbitrary script (either a selection or a file's worth). I am finding now that I much prefer to simply pop open a new window in TextMate, and type my experiments there, and then hit Cmd-R to try things out. It even produces nicer output.

07 April 2007

Eugene After First Week

We've been living in Eugene for a week now. We're still in the midst of unpacking and getting back to every day life, but things are going well so far.

This morning, I woke up to see it was raining, and I was psyched! Yes, I'm weird like that :) It had begun to clear up some by about mid morning, and we headed to opening day of the farmer's market, where it didn't rain on us at all. We bought some veggies, salsa, bread, etc. The kids were restless, so we headed off to lunch.

Lunch was at a grill at the Oakway Center. Then we hung out in the courtyard for a while while the kids played, and Xander specifically enjoyed getting rained on. Then it was off to a park back in our neighborhood. We were at the park until 4pm, the whole time it was sunny. Finally, headed home to move a bit of furniture around and then make dinner. Had a tasty Mexican spread. After dinner it seemed hot, and I realized it had gotten up to 77 in the house, with all the sun streaming in. Opened some windows, which was a great bit of fresh air, and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

Looking back on the week, a few other notes:

  • Market of Choice is my favorite market in town, but it sure seems expensive. We'll have to see. The place is gorgeous (doesn't hurt that the closest one to us is brand new and very nicely done). It's similar to say an Andronicos, or maybe an aspiring Whole Foods, etc. Great cheese selection (yea!), cool cafe with fresh pizzas, good meat selection and quality, big spread of produce, lots of organic, etc.
  • Bicycles are a VERY common way to travel around town here in Eugene, which is something I love. I'm now investigating a town bike. I'm likely going to go with a Niner, and use it both as a town bike, as well as an alternative mtb.
  • Our dryer is still not hooked up. When it was delivered, the house didn't have the special vent attachment for the house, so they couldn't finish it. Then, once we had that, on Sears second trip out, they couldn't seem to plug in this vent attachment (which I've since managed to get in, but it was tricky indeed), nor did they have the right power cord (which I've since purchased and wired up). Now the real trick is to figure out how to get the vent hose attached, and be able to climb out of the space without having to use a real excess of vent tubing. Sears comes again on Monday, so we'll see.

House for Sale

Our house in Rocklin is for sale now that we've moved to Eugene. We staged it, and had pictures taken, as well as the 360Spin folks do their thing. Pretty cool. Check it out.

01 April 2007

Arrival in Eugene

Originally uploaded by Christopher Bailey.
Here's the sunset as we arrived at our new house in Eugene, OR last night. It was a gorgeous drive (at least from about Medford to Eugene). Drive went well, kids did great. We're very excited to be at our new home. The WiFi is setup, espresso machine is rolling, and we're starting our day in our new home.

27 March 2007

House is nearly packed up; just about to move

The movers were here this morning, and today they packed up nearly all of our house. They will finish tomorrow, while also packing the truck. It's been a crazy day. The gardiners and window washers were here this morning, we were trying to scurry around to finish up things for the movers, and then keep the kids entertained as well.

This afternoon was good though. A real estate agent came by, said she heard we were selling our house (from our neighbor, who just sold theirs, which is the same model as ours), and that she has two prospective buyers (we haven't even put the house on the MLS yet). She brought the family by later this afternoon and our agent showed them around while we did some errands. The people loved it, and we're hoping they'll be putting in a bid by the end of the week. Whew! That'd be awesome, hopefully it works out.

I am now sitting in the home office, which is one of the few things they have left to pack up. I'm doing a bit of work, then finishing readying the office for packing, then off to sleep in the hotel. We drive to Oregon on Saturday.

18 March 2007

Public Apollo is Available!

Following on ApolloCamp this past Friday at Adobe, you can now go and download the Apollo runtime, SDK, and Flex Builder extensions. Get it here. This is the coolest stuff, seriously.

05 March 2007

My Mac Menu bar is getting too full

I have switched to using You Control: Desktops for my Mac virtual desktop manager. I was using Virtue Desktops before, but it's been buggy, and seems to not remember, or often pay attention to my settings for what apps go on which desktops and so on. You Control was something I looked at when they were in pre-release, and it wasn't very good at the time. But since then they've come a long way!

I have always liked having the pager control in the menu bar, and they have this now. But, between that and various other things, my darn menu bar is crazy full, and overcrowded when I'm just looking at my 15" MacBook Pro screen (this screenshot was done on a 20" Dell monitor, and my regular office monitor is a 24" Dell wide aspect ratio, so that one rarely gets crowded). The image above, while shrunk, is 719 pixels wide.

27 February 2007

Benchmarking Mongrel, Apache, Rails, etc.

I'm doing some benchmarking of a Rails based web app (technically, a web service) to try to establish some baselines and to use in assessing build outs/hardware deployment, etc. To start off, I wanted to establish a baseline by using pure static content. The performance I got didn't seem quite right to me. Below is a message I sent to the mongrel-users mailing list. I figured this was a good blog item, and would like to solicit help on this...

I'm trying to do some initial benchmarking of our setup, mainly just to establish baselines. I'm essentially using the process Zed outlines in a previous message:

What I'm running into is that Mongrel appears only half as fast as Apache when serving a small static HTML file. If I then add in Apache with mod_proxy_balancer, going to a single Mongrel, it drops down to nearly about a third of what pure static Apache will do. This seems bogus to me, and I suspect I have either some configuration problem, or something. My understanding from what I've read is that Mongrel should be fairly close to Apache when serving static content (at least not only 50% as fast). Is that right as a generalization?

Here's some info to back this up.
- Server: HP DL360 dual 3.0GHz Xeons, 4GB RAM, 10k RPM SCSI disks
- OS: Fedora Core 6, up to date as of a few days ago
- Apache 2.2.3-5, with mod_proxy_balancer
- Mongrel 1.0.1, mongrel_cluster 0.2.1
- serving a static HTML file from the Rails app's public directory
- Testing using an identical server, that sits above this one in the rack, connected to a switch (so it's one hop)
- Using httperf for testing, with the following command:
httperf --server lab05 --port 80 --uri /mongrel_alive.html --num-conns 10000
The number of connections I vary to be near the 10 second mark...

Here's the results:

- Just Apache, num-conns=15000, ~1400 req/sec
- Direct to Mongrel on port 5000, num-conns=8000, ~740 req/sec
- Apache mod_proxy_balancer to a single Mongrel, num-conns=5000, ~475 req/sec

So, I'm incurring a massive penalty for the balancer/cluster setup. In production we will be using hardware load balancers, but even still, my understanding was that instead of a drop from 1400 to 740, it should be somewhat closer (say at least over 1000).

What would folks suggest, or what comments do you have?
Shortly after that, I decided to throw Pen and Nginx in the mix just as a random check on this. I haven't used them before so relied on what I found on the net, etc. for config, thus I could potentially get better results, but they yielded:
  • Nginx with one Mongrel: ~612 req/sec
  • Pen with one Mongrel: ~670 req/sec
I can see Apache being slower than these, as it's a much bigger and more complex app. So the question remains, should straight Mongrel be half as fast as Apache? And, should the load balancers affect the performance that much (although Pen is having only a 10% impact here).

26 February 2007

It's Comcastic!

Well, I hope it will be Comcastic! Ordered up new phone, cable TV, and Internet service all in one with Comcast today, for our new house in Eugene. Yep, that's phone over cable. They had the fastest net service in the area (8MBit down, 784k up). We have a cable modem now, and have had really good luck with it, so I hope that continues.

The cable will include HD, and we have two of the new TiVo Series 3 HD units on the way from Amazon. Comcast will give us four cable cards (two per box) to put in them. Pretty cool, although more for my wife than me, as I barely watch TV these days.

The phone is pretty good too. It includes unlimited local and long distance calling, and 12 features (stuff like voice mail, call forwarding, etc.). All of this, setup for two rooms, etc, etc., is $130/month ($15 of that is for the 3 extra cable cards - they give you one for free). Seems fairly good, although if you did a lot of long distance calling this would probably start to pay off pretty well. Our cable modem now costs me $68/month (this is for the "residential router" package, which means I can "legally" (i.e. I don't violate the ToS) put a router and as many computers as I want behind it), my phone typically costs $45, and our DirecTV (with Tivo) costs about $70/month. So, that's $183, and thus I figure we're saving about $58/month (minus some, as the $130 through Comcast doesn't include the Tivo service).

22 February 2007


For those of you interested in Apollo, check out the free ApolloCamp, on March 16th at the Adobe San Francisco office. See you there!

17 February 2007

Using multiple Perforce depots and TextMate's P4 Bundle

I'm a big TextMate user. We're also a Perforce shop. TextMate has a P4 bundle, and it works great, but it's main problem is that it has minimal knowledge of your P4 settings, and certainly doesn't handle multiple P4 clients or depots. For example, I have a few different clientspecs I work with, and the server, port, clientspec, etc. all differ. So, it's not feasible to use a single .p4config file, or set the values in TextMate or globally in the environment. This makes using the P4 bundle essentially impossible for all but whichever one you pick as your main clientspec.

To alleviate this, and based on how I organize my code on my machine, I wrote a simple little script that is what I set the "TM_P4" textmate environment variable to. This script knows that all my code is kept in subdirectories off my ~/Code directory. So, I then stash specific .p4config files at the root of each of these as needed, and the script looks for those based on the currently open file, and sets that for the P4 settings. This seems to work well. Here's the script in case it's useful to you:

# Script to run p4 commands in TextMate, and set the P4 variables
# depending on the location of the file being operated on.

# Where all my code lives

# figure out the Code subdirectory for the current file in TextMate

# Reconstitute as path to potential config file

# if dir contains a .p4config, set P4CONFIG to that
if [ -f $P4_CONFIG_FILE ]; then
export P4CONFIG="~/.p4config"

# now do p4
/usr/local/bin/p4 $*

11 February 2007

Loving the Blackjack, Wishing For Ubiquitous 3G

I've really been loving my Blackjack. The one bummer is how spoiled I am getting with 3G. When we move to Eugene there won't be 3G and I already find EDGE sucks. Hey Cingular - please put 3G everywhere!

Twitter: cool or just silly?

Check out Twitter, a relatively new web app. It's very simple, it shows the status of people (here's ). Status is any short bit of text the person wants to state. When I first saw this, I thought it was just plain silly. Gee, do you really need up to the minute (or whatever) updates on what people are doing? Could people really keep it up to date enough to be http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifinteresting/useful? Would people actually use it?

Tonight I was checking it out, and noticed that they have an ActionScript 3 library so as to make using their public API trivial from Flash/Flex apps (I'm using Flex a fair bit these days). I then noticed that you can update your status via IM as well as via SMS from your mobile phone. Ok, now it's getting a bit more interesting. Maybe you can keep it fairly up to date with relative ease.

Also the AS3 lib and API, as well as the ability to shield your status from the public (only your Twitter "friends" can see it), made me think about tieing this in to the Agile tasking tool we're working on for RailsConf. It could potentially be interesting to have a "work" Twitter account, and use the API to show people's status. You could then tie it in to the tasking app, and anytime anyone changed a task's status (for example, they set a task to now be "in progress", the app would shoot out a Twitter message (aka a "tweet") to indicate that. Then using the public API you could show your team's "timeline" on a web page. Useful? Questionable. Geeky fun? You bet.

06 February 2007

moblog from my new Blackjack

I got a Blackjack mobile phone the other day and just set it up for moblogging. This is my first test. As for the phone, I am truly loving it so far!


03 February 2007

Essential COM autographed by Don Box, and other books

I've put up more books on eBay, including a copy of "Essential COM", signed by Don Box himself (eBay listing). I've also got books on Zope and Plone (listing, which has links to the others), and various other Windows books. I didn't sell a single one of the Java books I had up there, which kind of surprised me (nearly all were listed at $4).

02 February 2007

Moving to Eugene, Oregon

We (my wife, kids, and I) will be moving to Eugene, Oregon in a couple months (probably in April). We signed the counter-offer on a house today, so hopefully escrow goes well, and we'll own it in March. We're pretty excited, but nervous of course as well. We don't know anyone there. My wife's parents and brother and his family will move later this year (no commune jokes please!). Looking forward to it though. It was a move completely by choice, and I will continue to work for Adobe from there (from the home office).

We spent last Saturday driving around with our real estate agent, and wound up still loving a house we'd seen back in October, which had recently had the price dropped, so we went for it. I have a map showing our drive and various waypoints up on Discover Machine. I recently got a GPS unit, so used it on the drive, which was really quite handy. I put a waypoint in for every house we went in to, as well as lunch spot, and so on. It was cool to look at the overall route afterwards and see where all we went from a 10,000 foot type of view. I uploaded my data from my GPS into Google Earth Plus, and then saved a KML file out, which can be uploaded to Discover Machine (a site done in Rails :).

This will of course be a very convenient location for RailsConf later this year, as well as cool conferences like OSCON.

I'm Presenting at RailsConf 2007

I just found out yesterday that the proposal my co-worker and I submitted for RailsConf 2007 was accepted! Quite exciting. I hope to say more later, but for the moment, the talk will be about using Rails and Adobe's new Apollo technology.

28 January 2007

Adobe to Release PDF for Industry Standardization

Check out the press release! Adobe is releasing the FULL PDF 1.7 spec to get published as an ISO standard. Pretty cool.

25 January 2007

I'm Now A GPS Geek

A good friend who is quite into GPS, and happens to work on the Google Earth team finally got me hooked on GPS. I picked up a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx unit at REI after attending their intro class the other day. I then proceeded to figure out how to get it all going on the Mac. Many thanks to Ben Sinclair, as he pretty much covers every angle in his article, "How to use a Garmin GPS with your Mac."

I'm using the combination of an Intel Mac, with Google Earth Plus, and then Parallels for the Garmin MapSource City Navigator software. I haven't gone for any TOPO stuff yet, and Google Earth seems to cover most of what I want trail/bike/ski wise so far (if I get more into backcountry skiing, then I will likely want the TOPO stuff).

Anyway, this is really cool. I can't wait to use it on my mountain bike. The first heavy use will be this weekend when we go to Eugene to scout houses and so on. I will track the entire day on Saturday and then import into Google Earth, etc. Also, because I have the City Navigator stuff on there, I've got intricate detail of city streets, businesses, turn-by-turn directions, and so on. Slick.

Note, the "x" series units from Garmin (I think all of them anyway) have microSD cards. You can store a ton of map data on these things. For example, the City Navigator stuff I put on mine, for which I did most of Oregon, and a good chunk of Northern CA, was about 50MB. The 60CSx comes with a 64MB microSD, but I have a 512MB on the way (I'd have gone bigger, but I heard that with the 1GB cards it creates a noticeable slowdown on the unit while it sifts through all that data, and 512MB seemed like plenty given what you can put in about 50-100MB).